Tag Archive: Anathema


2011 – Music Year in Review


Well, what a bloody good year for music, if I do say so myself. Yes it’s that time of year to look back over the last 12 months and reflect on how all those sound waves reverberating off of my eardrums have done!

We’ll do the awards in reverse order starting with the ever so predictable individual awards before looking at the runners up and then the big top 5!

I will also post links to my recommended song on each album, so with one swift click you can check some of these babies out, sound good?!

So here we go then…

Most Disappointing Release

Opeth – Heritage

I’ve tried so much to get into this album, I love Opeth. Now when I say it’s a bit of a disappointment I’m by no means implying it’s rubbish. There’s a lot to like here, heavily inspired by 70s progressive music, it’s jazzy in places and technically fantastic. However if I wanted to listen to King Crimson, I’d go and listen to an album like ‘Red’. Therein lies the problem, it sounds like Opeth trying to not sound like themselves (they still do, but it sounds forced).  Surprisingly for me it is the lack of death growls and heavy guitar passages that let this album down, and I’m not usually a fan of heavy for heavy sake.  I will admit having a soft spot for the track ‘Folklore’ though!

Check out: Folklore

Best Album of 2011, not from 2011

The Cooper Temple Clause  – Kick up the Fire and let the Flames Break Loose

Indeed. This album was released in 2003 and the band have subsequently split up, so what relevance does it have on this list? It is the album that I’ve been listening to for the past couple of weeks that’s practically become the background music to my life as we close off the year. Not a bad song on the album, and I find myself relating to every single tune on the album, it’s spooky!  The first time I heard the melancholic opener ‘The Same Mistakes’ and the electro driven ‘New Toys’, I knew this album would quickly become an instant classic for me.  I will certainly be checking out their other two albums.

Check Out: New Toys

Best EP

Amplifier – Fractal

4 tracks of pure instrumental Amplifier genius, probably the only chance to catch them improvising extremely tight prog-goodness. The excitement a song like ‘The Chase’ creates is in complete contrast to the EP closer ‘Solaris’ which is more like music akin to listening to whilst sunbathing on the Moon.

Check Out:  Executive

Band we didn’t want to see spilt up

Sad times. Well it is if two of your favourite bands decide to call it quits:

Oceansize called it quits in February (very quietly) not citing a reason for the split, entirely bizzare set of events considering their 4th album ‘Self Preserved Whilst the Bodies Float Up’ was a masterpiece of melody, texture and emotion.  To speculate; I’m convinced that it may have been down to them not getting as much media exposure or popularity as they deserved. I’m of the opinion they are the best band to come out of Manchester (Oasis? Who are they?) it would seem they were just very unlucky with timing. I will lament their passing but I can always listen to their 4 albums and 2 EPs knowing they were one of Britain’s best kept secrets. Oh and Steve Durose has gone onto join Amplifier so not all is lost.

Check Out: Oscar Acceptance Speech

 

Pure Reason Revolution in the other hand announced a very amicable split citing it was just time to move onto other projects. Fair Enough. They did a farewell tour around the UK which I attended which was fantastic. I will miss not hearing how their sound would have probably continued evolving especially as they had started to incorporate more electronic elements. Still I can always go back and listen to a track like ‘Deus Ex Machina’  and smile lots!

Check Out: Last Man, Last Round

Runners up

The following 5 albums came very close to entering my top 5, therefore they are all subsequently tied in 6th place you could say. These are the albums I’ve enjoyed thoroughly this year, but faced very stiff competition. I recommend them all HIGHLY.

Blackfield –Welcome to My DNA

There’s a lot to like about Blackfields 3rd attempt, whether it be the Arabian metal tinged vibes of ‘Blood’, the orchestral drenched ‘Dissolving with the Night’or the energetic acoustic arrangements in ‘Waving’.  Not as strong as the first 2 albums though as explained in my full review here.

Check out: Blood

M83 – Hurry Up We’re Dreaming

Multi-layered, beautifully composed soundscapes with chilled vocals, I fell in love with ‘Midnight City’ the first time I heard it, the electro beats and childlike humour of ‘Raconte-Moi Une Histoire’ are awe inspiring and the album finisher  ‘Outro’ is perhaps one of the soothing ends to an album I’ve heard.

Check out: Midnight City (Official Video)

Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

Delightful, delightful, oh delightful Mogwai, they deliver something different on every album, and this one is no exception. Listen to a song like ‘White Noise’ and it’s hard not to fall in love with the ethereal vibes. Having a song like ‘Rano Pano’ on the same album certainly helps gear things up a notch, and the video (see below) is pure genious!

Check out: Rano Pano (Official Video)

Anathema – Falling Deeper

Running this risk of sounding like a complete girl, I listened to this album once on the way to work and by the time I arrived I wanted to quite literately weep.  By taking old classics from the early albums and reaaranging them with such deep emotional changes (the addition of an orchestra  helps) it’s hard not to be moved by tracks  like ‘Sunset of Age’ and ‘Kingdom’.

Check out: Crestfallen

Lunatic Soul – Impressions

Mariusz Duda (The frontman and bassist from Riverside) certainly delivers with his 3rd solo album,  it’s dark in places, beautifully haunting yet carries a positive optimism about itself in tracks like ‘Impressions Part 4’ and ‘Impressions Part 8’.  Stick your headphones on and turn the lights off.

Check out: Impressions Part 4

HERE WE GO THEN – MY TOP 5 ALBUMS OF 2011!

5. Mastodon – The Hunter

Perhaps the heaviest band on my list, I’ve always been aware that Mastodon are fairly prolific, but not a band I’d previously invested much time in. Let’s get one thing straight ‘The Hunter’ is a metal album, you’ll hear chugger-chugger riffs, metal screams and thundering flurrying drumming but it also has mellower moments. You’ll also hear some of the most refreshing progressive music of our generation, technically the band are on fine form here and also at their most experimental. Take a track like ‘Creature Lives’ for example that starts with the most crazy mindblowing bit of synth manipulation I’ve ever heard. ‘Blasteroid’ grabs you by the balls and doesn’t let up for 2 and a half minutes, ‘Stargasm’ is a personal highlight with contrasting heavy counter melodies dominating the track and then the relative gentleness of the album closer ‘The Sparrow’ proves that Mastodon are a band that think about the dynamic range of their sound.

Check out: The Sparrow

4.Thomas Dolby –  Map of the Floating City

Well it only took him 20 years to release a follow up to his last album ‘Astronauts & Heretics’, but the man best known for electro-pop new wave hits in the 80’s with ‘Hyperactive’ and ‘She Blinded me with Science’ has finally returned. The reason for his long hiatus probably stems from the fact he created a company back in the 90’s now known as Beatnik Inc, they were the ones who created the .RMF  (Rich Music Format) format for electronic music distribution, he’s largely responsible for creating the technology behind just about every ringtone in existence for mobile phones, a very profitable endeavour no doubt.  His new album is spilt into 3 sections each covering a different musical genre (electro-pop, bluegrass & ambient) with  songs like ‘Spice Train’ and ‘Evil Twin Brother’ certainly harking back to his glory days. Despite not being a massive fan of Bluegrass music, you can’t help but smile when you hear a song like ‘Toadlickers’. The albums most moving moment comes in the form of ‘Oceanea’ which is structured to a carefree perfection. The album also features guest appearances from many popular musicians such as Mark Knopfler, Regina Spektor & Imogen Heap.

Check out:  Oceanea

3.  Amplifier – The Octopus

The first of two double albums in this list, and bloody hell, what a double album! I’ve known Amplifier for a fair few years; I own their first two albums which aren’t half bad, just not masterpieces. ‘The Octopus’ most definitely is though and contains some of the best music I’ve heard all year. ‘Interglacial Spell’ contains magic by the tonnes, the title track ‘The Octopus’ is a pulsating odyssey with a killer bass line but the albums high point definitely reaches a climax with ‘Interstellar’; a song I guarantee would motivate the most lazy of individuals and get them air guitaring during the high peaks of musical pathway it soars. Sel Balamir and Co. really deliver on this release to say there’s only three of them, each one sounding brave and bold on their respective instruments. Atmospheric soundscapes, heavier bridge sections and lots of guitar effects make for quite a trip. Now that Oceansize have folded, Manchester’s best band? YOU BET.

Check out:  Interstellar

2.  Steven Wilson – Grace For Drowning

You may be surprised to see Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) in 2nd place on my list, however that’s just the way it is, considering I think my number #1 album of the year is well deserved for the artist. It’s obvious though to anybody who knows me, that this album would make the list. Sounding completely different to his debut attempt (Insurgentes) for his double album Steve has embraced 70s progressive music and used influences learnt to create something rather refreshing in this decade. Full of jazz influences and free form movements thus witnessed in songs like ‘Sectarion’ and the epic ‘Raider II’, the album also contains more self contained pieces such as the deliously dark industrial sounding ‘Index’, the gentle to heavy ‘No Part of Me’ and the beautiful sadness of ‘Postcard’. As is typical of anything Steve releases, it is very well produced, it has a certain charm and warmth to it that endears me to the album everytime I play it. That and I got him to sign it when I met him earlier this year! It’s a great sophomore effort, and his best solo work to date. Can we have some new Porcupine Tree next year please Steve?!

Check out: No Part of Me

…and the winner is:

1.Tides from Nebula – Earthshine

This album IS 2011 for me, might come as a surprise, I wouldn’t imagine many post-rock albums by relatively unknown Polish bands would make the top of any Englishman’s list, but it’s in at number #1 on mine. Music for me is very much about how it makes you feel, and music to party to aside (for that has its place also) can also be an extremely private and personal experience. Everytime I listen to this album, nothing else matters, it’s like I’m floating in a tranquil sea, completely at peace. This is powerful music, entirely instrumental yet in this case the absence of lyrics enhances the experience for the music can be interpreted in so many different ways each time around.  A Track  like ‘Caravans’ was written to be listened to in the dark on your headphones as you float away laid on your bed. The guitars here are often used dynamically to build up layers and to set the scene, yet moments of ethereal heaviness come and blow all this away in moments of breathtaking clarity. This is not the most immediately accessible music, yet upon repeat listenings the most rewarding album of 2011. ’Siberia’ really does conjure up desolate arctic settings and ‘The Fall of Leviathan’ sounds like a battle of hearts and minds forever fighting and winding down. I actually reviewed this album in full  here. I highly recommend investing in 60 minutes of your time, to get relaxed, turn off the lights and LISTEN – pure bliss.

Check out: Caravans

…and there we go folks, I hope you enjoyed seeing the musical word of 2011 through my eyes for a little while, certainly a year to remember for me. Lot’s more to discover next year no doubt, and I look forward to all the upcoming new releases with my usual excitment!

D.P

June Update #1


Hi All,

Well I thought they’d be no better way of starting the summer then to let you read my thoughts on the new Anathema Album, so here you go:

Anathema: We’re Here Because We’re Here

I’ve got some more reviews to churn out before the months end so keep checking back.

In other news in case you didn’t know Rush have a new single out called Caravan. It’s pretty good and well worth checking out, you can be sure that I’ll review the new album which has been entitled ‘Clockwork Angels’  when it has been released. 2010 is a pretty good year for the old tuneage so far.

Cya Soon,

DP


Genre: Rock\Metal

Year of Release: 2010

Record Label: Kscope

Recommended for fans of: Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, Mogwai.

Track Listing:

  1. “Thin Air” – 5:59
  2. “Summernight Horizon” – 4:12
  3. “Dreaming Light” – 5:47
  4. “Everything” – 5:05
  5. “Angels Walk Among Us” – 5:17
  6. “Presence” – 2:58
  7. “A Simple Mistake” – 8:14
  8. “Get Off, Get Out” – 5:01
  9. “Universal” – 7:19
  10. “Hindsight” – 8:10

Review

Ask any Anathema fan and they will tell you that this album has been a long time coming, the last time we saw a full studio album from them was 2003’s ‘A Natural Disaster’, admittedly the first ever Anathema album I got into. Sure we had ‘Hindsight’ in 2008 – a collection of acoustic arrangements of classic Anathema pieces, which proved an emotional soothing 50 minute ride, but we wanted something even fresher, we wanted something entirely new.

Well, what we have is a definite evolution of their sound; it’s hard to believe that these guys from Liverpool started off as one of the ‘Peaceville 3’ along with My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost creating the whole death/doom scene in the early 90’s.

It’s no secret I’m not a big fan of the first few Anathema albums entirely because of this reason, I’m glad Anathemas original vocalist Darren White left the band and let the Cavanagh brothers take the reins and steer the direction towards what could be best described as Atmospheric Post-Rock.

This is a good thing in my opinion!

So what’s changed since 2003 then?

‘We’re here because we’re here’ [WHBWH] builds upon the strong song writing seen in the last decade of the band, and I would go as far as saying it’s their strongest ‘cohesive’ effort so far. That and it’s been mixed by Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree. YES. HIM.

WHBWH opens up with ‘Thin Air’, arguably one of the standouts of the album, this song oozes atmosphere with its carefully layers guitars and echoey vocals. Vincent Cavanagh has never sounded so good! The lyrics make it plainly clear that this is a love song, ‘all that I know is that I love you, and all of the world is on fire, you’re just a whisper way’ albeit a carefully crafted and powerful one. The harmony vocals that kick in midway through the song are joined by some powerful drumming and the build up that is created is pure bliss!

Without giving you anytime to breathe ‘Summernight Horizon’ is next, Les Smith leading the way with some very fast keyboard flurries that Danny Cavanagh wastes no time into laying down some wonderfully distorted guitar onto. Lee Douglas has officially joined the band line-up full time as of this album, which is brilliant news; she has a beautifully haunting voice as evidenced on the duel harmonies with Vincent. ‘The world is like a jewel in your eyes…’ fantastic stuff

‘Dreaming Light’ is the ballad of the album, a gorgeous piano led piece. The great thing about music is the way it can make you feel and this song is so bittersweet, yet somewhat hopeful, it’s definitely about that kind of ‘fall in love’ in an instant type feeling we’ve all felt at some point – ‘…and you, shining silent, love steals my mind like the sunrise’. The instrumental section during this song conjures up a mind on fire totally besotted by someone.

‘Everything’ is a fast paced little number that makes you kind of restless just listening to it, with a chorus sounding not unlike ‘Heart of the Sunrise’ by Prog Legends Yes.  Massive emphasis is on the use of Vincent and Lee’s harmonies and duel singing, it is the defining attribute on this album indeed. ‘Everything is energy and energy is you…’ pure vocal genius.

‘Angels Walk Amongst Us’ is a song that is very personal and emotional not at least for the 3 Cavanagh brothers being about the death of a close family member, the song builds up just as I would expect grief would upon losing someone very close. When the distorted guitars hit the forefront of the layers, the anger and frustration can just be heard. A very good mid-album piece perfectly placed.

The next track ‘Presence’ acts as a segue piece; featuring a spoken sample if a man talking about his views of mortality, he says that ‘life isn’t the opposite of death, birth is the opposite of death, therefore life is eternal’. It’s food for thought definitely, and it fits in the piece aptly before Lee Douglas vocals can another chance to shine, before the build up into:

‘A Simple Mistake’, without a doubt the best song Anathema have ever written, this is a fantastic 8 mini-epic. It really does have to be heard. The song can broadly be divided into 2 sections, the first 4 minutes are largely ethereal in nature featuring one of the most beautiful choruses I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing, the vocals and lyrics in particular are very strong. ‘Rise, be the master, cos you don’t have to be a slave’ – yeah stick it to the man and take some control over your life, despite any mistakes you might have made! The 2nd second is instrumental delight to the aural senses, starting with a distorted riff the whole band take off and proper go for it, John Douglas’s drumming in particular stands out here. The song builds up to a massive crescendo and then finishes abruptly leaving you for more. Powerful stuff!

‘Get Off, Get Out’ is the albums least serious piece, still full of energy and many fans have commented that it sounds very PT’ish. Coincidence seeing as SW mixed the record? The harmonies do have a very SW feel to them!

‘Universal’ is up next and is at least initially the most sombre piece on the album, introverted and retrospective, considering the wild ride we’ve had up to now it’s a welcome change to the ears! Danny Cavanagh’s solo is full of rich texture before… STRINGS are added to the mix, I am a sucker for String sections in rock music, and on this occasion they add so much depth! Closes the song off perfectly!

WHBWH closes unusually with a pure instrumental piece called ‘Hindsight’ which as mentioned above is also the name of the acoustic album they released a couple of years ago. Starting very much like Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were with the addition of a radio tuning into randomness, this is then joined by a voice talking about what seems to be the overarching concept of the album ‘Love and Life’. Soon enough though the guitars, drums and bass join in over the dynamic keyboards. The song builds up in intensity and leaves us with the one thought that: ‘Life is Eternal…’.

It may have taken a while to record but WHBWH has been worth the wait, this is Anathema doing what they do best being emotional atmospheric rock music that makes you think. It is a beautiful album and it does pain me slightly that not everyone will hear it.

If I dare say Anathema need to build upon the success of this, be very proud of this release and don’t leave it so long before they get back into the studio again to work on the next album.  I for one will be there to ride the ethereal journey once again.

Lineup:

Vincent Cavanagh – Vocals
Daniel Cavanagh – Guitar
Les Smith – Keyboards
Jamie Cavanagh – Bass Guitar
John Douglas – Drums
Lee Douglas – Vocals

4.5/5

D.P